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Ideas gain legitimacy as they are put to some practical use. A study of Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) supports this pragmatism as a way of thinking about truth and meaning. Architecture has a strong pragmatic strand, not least as we think of building users, architecture as a practice, the practical demands of building, and utility.
Peirce was a logician, and so many of his ideas are couched in terms of formal propositions and their limitations. His work appeals therefore to many architects grappling with the digital age, and references to his work cropped up in the Design Methods Movement that developed and grew from the 1950s.
Peirce’s commitment to logic led him to investigate the basic elements of logical statements, notably the element of the sign. His best-known contribution to design revolves around his intricate theory of semiotics, the science of signs. The study of semiotics divided around the 1980s between advocates of Peirce’s semiotics, and the broader, more politically charged field of structuralism. The latter has held sway in architectural discourse since the 1980s. Why this happened and what we gain by reviving a Peircean semiotics is the task of this book.
List of Tables and Figures; Acknowledgements
1. Introduction: Outline of the book
2. Signs: The tree and the weathervane; Peirce’s theory of signs; Icons in architecture
3. Sign-Vehicles: Icon; Index; Symbol; Ten classes of signs; First, Second, Third; Breaking the rules; The number three
4. Indexical architecture: A return to the physical; Signs and facts; Translating indexical signs to symbols; Diagrammatic proof
5. Abduction in architecture: Abduction in the smart city; Forensic architecture; Indefinite inference; Design as abduction; Abduction versus interpretation
6. Nature semiotics: Nature’s signs; Pansemiotics; Geosemiotics; The post human and speculative realism
7. Pragmatism: Pragmatism and positivism; Verification; The power of practice; Radicalising Peirce
Glossary; Further Reading; References; Index
“An outstanding tour de force of the meaning, impact and applications of all things digital in the natural world. Covering aspects of philosophy, biology, geography, social science, cultural theory and the arts it is an accessible and thought-provoking read for anyone interested in place, digital technologies and nature.”
Andrew Hudson-Smith, Professor of Digital Urban Systems, University College London.
How do people avoid the stresses of the digital age? Urban dwellers must now turn to nature to recover, restore and rebalance after the stresses brought on by relentless digital connectivity. It is easy to task nature as the cure, with technology as the ailment.
In Network Nature, Richard Coyne challenges the definitions of both the natural and the artificial that support this time-worn narrative of nature’s benefits. In the process, he attacks the counter-claim that nature must succumb to the sovereignty of digital data. Covering a spectrum of issues and concepts, from big data and biohacking to animality, numinous spaces and the post-digital, he draws on the rich field of semiotics as applied to natural systems and human communication, to enhance our understanding of place, landscape and architecture in a digital world.
We are active with our mobile devices; we play games, watch films, listen to music, check social media, and tap screens and keyboards while we are on the move. In Mood and Mobility, Richard Coyne argues that not only do we communicate, process information, and entertain ourselves through devices and social media; we also receive, modify, intensify, and transmit moods.
Designers, practitioners, educators, researchers, and users should pay more attention to the moods created around our smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Drawing on research from a range of disciplines, including experimental psychology, phenomenology, cultural theory, and architecture, Coyne shows that users of social media are not simply passive receivers of moods; they are complicit in making moods. Devoting each chapter to a particular mood—from curiosity and pleasure to anxiety and melancholy—Coyne shows that devices and technologies do affect people’s moods, although not always directly.
He shows that mood effects are transitional; different moods suit different occasions, and derive character from emotional shifts. Furthermore, moods are active; we enlist all the resources of human sociability to create moods.
And finally, the discourse about mood is deeply reflexive; in a kind of meta-moodiness, we talk about our moods and have feelings about them. Mood, in Coyne’s distinctive telling, provides a new way to look at the ever-changing world of ubiquitous digital technologies.
“We’re going through a radical cultural transformation. But how can we hope to take its measure? With admirable circumspection and a fine sense of order, Richard Coyne has surveyed the technological culture, and he teaches us to see it through the lens of mood, that remarkable attunement humans have to the world entire.”
—Albert Borgmann, author of Real American Ethics
“A highly original work, Richard Coyne’s Mood and Mobility is a major contribution to the contemporary discussion of digital technology and its social implications. Addressing a topic that has been largely neglected up until now, Coyne explores key aspects of our contemporary experience of digital media as it relates to emotional space in a way that is both accessible and relevant across a wide range of disciplinary perspectives.”
—Jeff Malpas, Distinguished Professor, University of Tasmania, Australia
Introduction. The mood of the digital age; Mood and mobility; Motivations for this study; Mood design; Plan of the book; Beyond mood control; Incidental insights; Method of investigation
Errata: p.163 “The approximation of the visible light spectrum to a doubling of amplitude from the short to the long wave end of the spectrum does resemble the doubling of sound amplitude to create the musical octave.” For “amplitude” correct to “wavelength.”
This book looks afresh at the implications of Jacques Derrida’s thinking for architecture. In some ways Derrida was recruited to legitimate and lend support to a particular mode of architectural experimentation in the 1980s and 90s known as Deconstruction. He was undoubtedly complicit in this adaptation of his own thinking, and his dialogue with architects and with architecture is part of the Derridean legacy. This book serves as a review of Derrida’s interaction with architecture, but advances a more nuanced consideration of the implications of his thinking, paying particular attention to the way architecture is taught and practiced.
This concise introduction is ideal for students and practitioners of architecture, providing an important overview of how Derrida’s thinking fits into the constellation of influences that affect architecture.
What reviewers say
“Derrida for Architects is no crypto-logical monument in memoriam. The book is not built upon dark labyrinthine passages echoing with arcane text. It is a rather light and airy work and one of several intentionally small, accessible books in the Routledge series Thinkers for Architects which condense the thought of philosophers ranging from Martin Heidegger to Luce Irigaray. This brief and unpretentious volume succeeds very well in introducing rather than farewelling Derrida to architects. … has no unexpected twists and turns. Without discursive dead-ends, ghostly apparitions, impenetrable walls of text or secret passages to confound readers there is nothing really scary about this work. … Derrida for Architects is to be celebrated for maintaining that most important and productive relationship between Derrida and architecture.” Williams , Stewart. 2012. Book Review: Derrida for architects, by Richard Coyne. Planning Perspectives, (27) 1, 147-149.
Coyne, Richard. 2011. Derrida for Architects. Abingdon: Routledge.
The Tuning of Place
Sociable Spaces and Pervasive Digital Media
How do pervasive digital devices–smartphones, iPods, GPS navigations systems, and cameras, among others–influence the way we use spaces? In The Tuning of Place, Richard Coyne argues that these ubiquitous devices and the networks that support them become the means of making incremental adjustments within spaces–of tuning place. Pervasive media help us formulate a sense of place, writes Coyne, through their capacity to introduce small changes, in the same way that tuning a musical instrument invokes the subtle process of recalibration. Places are inhabited spaces, populated by people, their concerns, memories, stories, conversations, encounters, and artifacts. The tuning of place–whereby people use their devices in their interactions with one another–is also a tuning of social relations.
The range of ubiquity is vast–from the familiar phones and hand-held devices through RFID tags, smart badges, dynamic signage, microprocessors in cars and kitchen appliances, wearable computing, and prosthetics, to devices still in development. Rather than catalog achievements and predictions, Coyne offers a theoretical framework for discussing pervasive media that can inform developers, designers, and users as they contemplate interventions into the environment. Processes of tuning can lead to consideration of themes highly relevant to pervasive computing: intervention, calibration, wedges, habits, rhythm, tags, taps, tactics, thresholds, aggregation, noise, and interference.
Richard Coyne is Professor and Chair of Architectural Computing at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age: From Method to Metaphor (1995), Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real (2001), and Cornucopia Limited: Design and Dissent on the Internet (2005), all published by the MIT Press.
What reviewers say
“This excellent book crosses the boundaries between pervasive media, design, architecture and many other fields – so Vitruvius, equal temperament, clocks, and Henri Lefebvre all make their appearance in a fascinating argument sustained over 240 pages.” S. B. Davis, online review of Kindle Edition.
“Each chapter explores one tuning technique almost as a note unto itself, yet with recall and premonition of variations that are sounded out elsewhere. Frequently readable as a collection of standalone essays, The Tuning of Place presents an admirable symphony of ideas.” Wood, Andrew F. 2011. Journal of Communication, (61) 1, E13-E15.
“The Tuning of Place is impressively well documented, drawing on numerous disciplines rarely connected with digital media, including music, architecture, urbanism, psychology, ecology, and philosophy. Coyne synthesized a wide range of philosophical, technical, design, and humanistic considerations to summarize scientific and cultural knowledge of the subtleties of the sense of place in the digital era. … The style of writing is therefore deliberately accessible, yet very precise and elegant. Coyne expresses his ideas through a series of refreshing metaphors stemming from various disciplinary fields. The endnotes, written in a more academic style, are aimed at researchers who may want to further explore the foundations for this ecological approach to digital technologies. The strength of this book lies in the wealth, broadness, and originality of documentation, ranging from phi- losophy and architecture to ecology and information science. Coyne’s book provides a valuable interdisciplinary resource for anyone interested in the influence of digital media on social interaction.” Guastavino, Catherine. 2011. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, (62) 4, 805.
Coyne, Richard. 2010. The Tuning of Place: Sociable Spaces and Pervasive Digital Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Adrian Snodgrass and Richard Coyne
Snodgrass, Adrian, and Richard Coyne. 2006. Interpretation in Architecture: Design as a Way of Thinking. London: Routledge.
Interpretation is everywhere in architecture. It is the basis of architectural creation. The introduction of the computer into the design studio revived expectations of a more scientific approach to architectural design. In many respects the contemporary studio climate is similar to that in which eighteenth and nineteenth century humanists defended interpretation as the mode of reasoning in the humanities and social sciences against method and an overt scientific rationalism. This collection of essays, by Adrian Snodgrass and Richard Coyne, captures the reflective experience of teachers in the architectural design studio in order to demonstrate that interpretation still remains the core of architectural production and hence of architectural understanding.
Focusing on three interpretive themes — play, edification and otherness — the anthology draws together strands of thought informed by the diverse reflections of hermeneutical scholarship, the applications of digital media and studio teaching and practice. The book provides an exciting synthesis of the findings of two scholars from disparate areas of architectural research, united by a common concern with cultural production.
Adrian Snodgrass is an internationally renowned authority in Buddhist Studies, Buddhist art and Asian architecture. He also researches in the area of hermeneutical philosophy and its application to knowledge production and cross-cultural understanding. He is an editor of Architectural Theory Review and his books on Buddhism and architectural symbolism have become classics in the field. Richard Coyne researches and teaches in digital media, computer-aided design in architecture, the philosophy of information technology, and design theory. He inaugurated an innovative cross-disciplinary MSc in Design and Digital Media. He is author of three books with MIT Press on the implications of computers for design. He is an architect and was recently Head of the University of Edinburgh’s Department of Architecture.
Coyne, Richard. 2005. Cornucopia Limited: Design and Dissent on the Internet, Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press.
The Internet provides a remarkable demonstration of the persistence of the gift in contemporary commerce. Net enthusiasts seem prepared to donate much to the common good. This generous spirit ought to strike resonances with the culture of design, which generally promotes a creative ethos of generosity, conspicuous display, and exuberance. But the cornucopia of the gift economy is offset by net culture’s recent leanings towards consumerism. This book challenges the supposed gift society of the Internet, and supplants the gift by a more compelling metaphor, enjoyed in certain quarters of contemporary design, that of theft, rule breaking, and transgression. The relationship between design thinking and the network economy is characterized by the reckless spirit of the trickster, the crosser of boundaries, and the malingerer in the hybrid and uncertain condition of the threshold. The book thus presents a designer’s view of the network economy, drawing on insights from design theorists, economists, philosophers and cultural theorists. It provides valuable insights for theorists of human-computer interaction, architects, designers, and those interested in registering the source and direction of the impulse to create, innovate, and design.
The book examines five metaphors: household, machine, game, gift and threshold. Economic theory is grounded in the household. The romantics and Marx claimed that labor is dominated by the rampant machinery of capitalism. The computer game represents a potent exemplar of new media economics. The gift is presented as precursor to commercial exchange. Coyne subjects each metaphor to scrutiny in terms of how it deals with the threshold, in other words as it is dissected by the cynic or manipulated by the trickster, and other liminal dwellers in the network economy.
‘What’s shaping the culture of the Internet? This turns out to be a surprisingly tricky question, one that Richard Coyne explores with verve and erudition.’
–Albert Borgmann, author of Holding On to Reality
Coyne, R.D. (1999). Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism and the Romance of the Real, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
This book explores the spectrum of romantic narrative that pervades the digital age, from McLuhan’s utopian vision of social reintegration by electronic communication to claims that cyberspace creates new realities.
Technoromanticism pits itself against a hard-headed rationalism, but its most potent antagonists are contemporary pragmatism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, surrealism, and deconstruction–all of which subvert the romantic legacy and provoke new narratives of computing. Thus the book also serves as an introduction to the application of contemporary theory to information technology, raising issues of representation, space, time, interpretation, identity, and the real. As such, it is a companion to Coyne’s Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age: From Method to Metaphor (MIT Press, 1995).
‘This book provides the most comprehensive philosophical and cultural context for understanding information technologies that I have ever seen.’
— N. Katherine Hayles, University of California, Los Angeles
‘This is an excellent and most welcome study of the discourse about computer communications, their narrativity as Coyne says, with particular attention to the classic theme of unity and fragmentation.’
— Mark Poster, Professor of History and of Information and Computer Science, University of California at Irvine
Coyne, R.D. (1995). Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age: From Method to Metaphor, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts
This book is written for the researcher, designer, practitioner, commentator and educator working in the area of information technology – those concerned with the technical, social and philosophical aspects of computers and electronic communications. The book demonstrates the strong relationship between postmodern thinking and all aspects of information technology.
In the book I explain the influence of the tradition of philosophical pragmatism on the designers of information technology, and how this is set in opposition to the culture of rationalism. I show the impact of critical theory on how we understand information technology and how this is being supplanted in some quarters by hermeneutical understandings. I also demonstrate the challenge of deconstruction to the rhetoric about information technology, particularly what it says about Marshall McLuhan’s concepts of the global village. The book shows how the barriers between technical studies and philosophy are dissolving in the light of postmodern thinking. The book is practical, focussing substantially on the praxis of technology.
In the book I call upon a vast range of postmodern writing, including Martin Heidegger’s ideas about technology and Being, and the debates that have stemmed from this work, including work by Gadamer, Adorno, Marcuse, Benjamin, Derrida, Habermas, Bernstein, Rorty, Caputo, Fish, Foucault and Lyotard, to name but a few. I make extensive use of contemporary work in the philosophy of technology, and also call upon work within information technology fields such as artificial intelligence, design theory and methods, formal theory, communications theory, computer-aided design, media studies, and studies by sociologists on the impact of information technology. The book also incorporates the studies of metaphor by Black, I.A. Richards, Ricoeur, Lackoff, Johnson and others. The study of metaphor proves valuable in understanding, assessing and designing information technology.
The book presents a coherent argument leading the reader through from rationalistic understandings of information technology with their dependence upon theory and intentionality to a praxis orientation that focuses on hermeneutics and metaphor. The arguments of the book are explained with examples of information technology from first-hand studies of computer-aided design, multimedia, electronic communications, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, and from studies of practitioners who use the technologies.
408 pages MIT Press
What the reviewers say
Richard Coyne has written what will likely become the standard overview of contemporary philosophy’s bearing on computer systems research and development. … Throughout his book, Coyne draws not only from architectural design and computer sciences, but also from several traditions of philosophy and critical theory, linguistics, sociology, and systems theory to survey a subject located at the intersection of all these fields. … Much of this book is in fact an effort to dispel the belief that wonkish logical reasoning is the underlying principle of information technology praxis. American Book Review
In his new book, Richard Coyne compares the relationship of the various modern schools of philosophy to developments in information technology. A daunting task, one might think, yet Coyne gives the reader an introduction to the major areas of philosophical thought and information systems that puts many textbooks to shame. Architects Journal
.. challenges the philosophical assumptions on which cyberspace has been built with a quick but bracing tour through the fields of logical positivism, pragmatism, phenomenology, hermeneutics and deconstruction. The best stuff here is on Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology. I-D Magazine
The book is an impressively intricate and insightful journey past normally unconnected ideas from philosophy and technology. Unlike many ‘quick read’ books on IT, this book impels the reader to slow down and ponder highlights for possible rereading. … the writing style is consistently impressive eloquent, and refreshing. … Overall, I recommend this book highly. ACM Computing Reviews
… Coyne’s book is a fascinating attempt to discuss IT from beyond the discourse of technological rationality. His insights into the discourse of the utopianists are particularly illuminating, and the deconstruction of technological determinism is elegant and convincing. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design
… this book represents an excellent reading for theory seminars on information technology, or for graduate, postgraduate students, and researchers exploring the many facets of information technology. ACADIA Quarterly
In writing this book, Coyne has done a considerable service to many people, especially those of us working primarily in design theory. He has achieved his ‘audacious’ proposition; he has written clearly about contemporary philosophy for an audience of designers and technologists, showing them the relevance of that philosophy to their praxis. Above all, he has ‘kept the conversation alive’-or rather, re-invigorated it and brought it onto a new plane of discourse. We can no longer ignore postmodern philosophy simply on the grounds that we cannot see its relevance, or that it is too obscure to gain access to it. Nigel Cross – Design Studies
Treatise yourself … Computing UK
Those readers who like the style of reasoning which I have tried to describe have already stopped reading this review long ago and left their homes to buy Coyne’s work. Information Economics and Policy
I found much of personal value in the book. It introduces a range of ideas that are rarely connected with technology and design. Those interested in creativity and innovation will find repeated challenges to connect up these bodies of knowledge with the author’s ideas. Creativity and Innovation Management
With his ambitious project Coyne has carved a major niche within IT for the history of thought. Archis
See on-line reviews by Peter Ferreira, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, and Jack Miller (offline).